Back to IndieWire

Women in Film Awards $32,000 in Grants to Sundance Filmmakers

Women in Film Awards $32,000 in Grants to Sundance Filmmakers

Women In Film, Los Angeles (WIF-LA) awarded $32,000 in cash and in-kind grants at Sundance over the weekend. The honors were presented at the 10th annual Women in Film Sundance Filmmakers Panel discussion, titled “What the Future Holds.” Panelists included Meera Menon (“Equity”), Sian Heder (“Tallulah”) and Clea Duvall (“The Intervention”). 

“Trapped” director Dawn Porter and writer-editor Sari Gilman won a new honor from WIF, the Women in Film Elevation Grant. Their documentary investigates the impact of abortion laws on women’s access to reproductive health services. The helmer of “Dogwalker,” Kim Sherman, received the 2016 Women In Film/CalmDown Productions, Inc. Grant. Sherman’s short is a darkly comic portrait of a dogwalker in the wake of her favorite client’s death. Rokhsareh Ghaemmaghami was awarded the Women In Film Documentary Grant for “Sonita,” a documentary about a young activist who uses her rap lyrics to fight child marriage. The Debra Hill Film Grant, a newly named honor, was bestowed upon Diane Bellino and Adam Davies, the filmmakers behind the animated short “The Itching,” a parable about a wolf and bunnies. 

The winners were selected by a jury comprised of WIF educators, filmmakers and artists. 

“Women In Film is thrilled to recognize the inspiring work of these exceptional filmmakers and to provide resources for their next projects,” said WIF Executive Director Kirsten Schaffer. “We are also honored to host a talented panel of filmmakers for a robust conversation about the current state of the union for female directors.”

See below for more information about the individual awards and awardees. 

Women In Film joins Los Angeles-based film, television and theater production company CalmDown Productions, Inc. for the sixth year to present the 2016 Women In Film/CalmDown Productions Grant to a female director in the Sundance Film Festival Shorts Program. FilmmakerKim Sherman was this year’s recipient for her work on DOGWALKER, the darkly comic adventure of a young dog walker whose worst nightmare comes true when she discovers that one of her favorite client’s beloved pets has passed away and is forced to take action while the family is away on vacation. With this grant, Sherman takes home $5,000 cash from Women In Film and CalmDown Productions, Inc., 5,000 feet of motion picture film stock from Eastman Kodak, $5,000 worth of high definition transfers by Technicolor, and $1,000 worth of budgeting and scheduling software from Entertainment Partners.

The jury presented the newly-created Debra Hill Film Grant, named in honor of the late, trailblazing writer/producer/director and independent filmmaker, to the creative team of Diane Bellino and Adam Davies for their animated short film, THE ITCHING. The award is for an independent filmmaker whose work represents a singular vision and ability to think beyond the normal conventions of filmmaking. The Itching is the parable of a shy wolf tries to connect with a group of hip, party-loving bunnies but finds her body is in revolt. Bellino and Davies will receive $1,000 cash from Women In Film and the Debra Hill Fellowship, plus $1,000 worth of budgeting and scheduling software from Entertainment Partners.

Women In Film’s Documentary Grant was established to recognize a deserving female documentarian in the Sundance Film Festival program. Rokhsareh Ghaemmaghami is the 2016 recipient for SONITA. The film, about a young, musically-talented Afghan girl named Sonita growing up in Iran wanting to be a rapper/singer while barely escaping being sold as a child bride, is an intimate portrait of creativity and womanhood, which highlights the rarely seen intricacies and shifting contrasts of Iranian society through the lens of an artist defining the next generation. Ghaemmaghami will receive $5,000 cash from Women In Film, plus $1,000 worth of budgeting and scheduling software from Entertainment Partners.

A newly-inaugurated Women In Film Elevation Grant, was created to honor a film in the Sundance Film Festival that elevates a topic important to and significant for women, to be used by the filmmakers in their outreach programs on behalf of their film and in support of their final execution of the film.  This year’s grant went to director Dawn Porter and writer/editor Sari Gilman for their documentary film TRAPPED.  As the battle over abortion heads to the U.S. Supreme Court, this documentary follows the struggles of the clinic workers and lawyers fighting to keep abortion safe and legal for millions of American women, many of whom are poor and uninsured, in the wake of hundreds of TRAP laws (or Targeted Regulations of Abortion Providers) passed by conservative state legislatures since 2010.  The filmmakers will receive $1,000 in cash from Women In Film and $1,000 worth of budgeting and scheduling software from Entertainment Partners.

Women In Film and Entertainment Partners will also donate $6,000 worth of budgeting and scheduling software to the Sundance Institute for use in their narrative program.

About the Winners


Dogwalker marks Kim Sherman’s entry into directing. She is best known for her work as the Producer of such festival favorites as Wild Canaries (dir. Lawrence Michael Levine, SXSW 2014), A Teacher (dir.Hannah Fidell, Sundance 2013), Sun Don’t Shine (dir. Amy Seimetz, SXSW 2012), and the breakout home-invasion thriller, You’re Next (dir.Adam Wingard, Lionsgate 2013).


Dianne Bellino is a writer/director of narrative and experimental forms in both live action and animation. Previous films have screened at SXSW, Ann Arbor, RISD Museum, Netflix and Fandor, and are available on DVD through The Journal of Short Film and Drag City.  Her work has been supported by grants from NYSCA and the Boomerang Fund for the Arts, and artist residencies at the MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, and the Ucross Foundation.  Bellino lives in New York City, where she teaches filmmaking and is the Assistant Dean of the School of Art at Pratt Institute.

Adam Davies is an artist and stop-motion animator who has worked at studios in Portland, OR and Brooklyn, NY on commercials for clients such as MTV, Nickelodeon, Burger King, and Heineken. He received his B.F.A. from Pratt Institute and currently teaches filmmaking through the Media Teaching Lab at the University of California in San Diego.


Rokhsareh Ghaemmaghami studied filmmaking and animation in Tehran Art University. Her research on animated documentary resulted in authoring a book named: “Animated Documentary, a New Way to Express”. She has made six documentaries and won more than 20 international awards. Her films, Cyanosis (2007) and Going up the Stairs (2011) have had wide international exposure and acclaim. SONITAwas praised at the IDFA Amsterdam Film Festival where it won the Audience Award for Best Documentary.


Dawn Porter is an award-winning filmmaker whose 2013 documentary,Gideon’s Army, won the Sundance Film Festival Editing Award, the Tribeca All Access Creative Promise Award, and was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award and an Emmy. Dawn’s other films include Spies of Mississippi(2014, PBS) and Rise, The Promise Of My Brother’s Keeper, a documentary film chronicling President Obama’s program to help young men and boys of color succeed. Prior to her work as a filmmaker, Dawn was director of standards and practices at ABC News and vice president of standard and practices at A&E Television Networks. She graduated from Swarthmore College and Georgetown Law Center and practiced law at the firm of Baker & Hostetler for five years.

Sari Gilman is an award-winning writer/editor whose directorial debut, Kings Point, won prizes at film festivals nation-wide, aired on HBO, and was nominated for an Academy Award. As an editor, she was nominated for a Prime Time Emmy for her work on Rory Kennedy’s Ghosts of Abu Ghraib. The first feature documentary she edited was Judith Helfand’s Blue Vinyl, which also aired on HBO and premiered at Sundance. Other films she has cut have appeared on HBO, AMC, A&E and PBS, including a history of Las Vegas and a history of New Orleans, both for PBS’ American Experience. She is currently working on a film about the wildly divergent views on Israel within her own Jewish family.

Sign Up: Stay on top of the latest breaking film and TV news! Sign up for our Email Newsletters here.

This Article is related to: Awards and tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Get The Latest IndieWire Alerts And Newsletters Delivered Directly To Your Inbox